June 07, 2015


English needs a word like あの人 anohito (pronounced "a-noh-shtoh"). It means "that person" and it's a completely neutral way to refer to someone. Anything can be offensive, of course, depending on how it's used, but as far as I can tell in normal usage anohito is not considered offensive.

The advantage of the word is that it doesn't imply anything at all about the one being referenced. It doesn't even imply a sex; you can use it for men or for women. It doesn't imply any kind of age; you can use it for kids or for adults. It works for people you know, people you don't know, people you like, people you don't like, and anyone else.

Reason I need that word is to refer to the person whose surname is "Jenner" who is in the news right now. I don't feel comfortable right now using either "he" or "she" for anohito, and picking either "Bruce" or "Caitlyn" forces me to decide on one or the other.

If I refer to Jenner as "him" the PC Police will arrest me. If I refer to Jenner as "her" it makes me feel like barfing. Powerline says Jenner hasn't gone under the knife yet. Photos indicate that Jenner has been undergoing hormone treatment, though, and has grown breasts. If Powerline is right, it means that at the moment Jenner is a hermaphrodite and we English speakers don't actually have an appropriate pronoun for hermaphrodites.

If I used the English phrase "that person" it wouldn't be neutral. In English that's a little rude, and it also makes clear my discomfort with other ways of referring to that person.

So I need to borrow anohito for this instance.

Posted by: Steven Den Beste in Japanese at 10:43 AM | No Comments | Add Comment
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April 22, 2015

Translation notes

When I was plundering Dog Days S3 last night, I was going through the [FBI] sub that I just downloaded. Previously I had been watching HorribleSubs (i.e. stolen from Funimation or Crunchyroll) with which I have not been totally satisfied. Anyway, I started jotting down notes, and here they are:

In episode 5, HorribleSubs translated moribito as "Forest People", which is a literal translation. FBI translated that as "dryads", which I like better even though it's less precise.

In episode 6, HorribleSubs translated omiai as "arranged marriage meeting". FBI had it as "engagement meeting" which is a lot better.

FBI translated shin ryu as "Divinegon", which is weird, instead of as "true dragon". (But they weren't consistent about it.)

Ep 6, during his period of anonymity, Horriblesubs translated all references to Lief as "they". That's a little too politically correct to me since it was blatantly obvious that the challenger was male. FBI uses "he" and "him".

Ep 6, Horriblesubs makes his name "Leaf Lang du Sha Halver". FBI says "Lief Langue de Chat Halver" -- which is at least more classy.

Ep 7, The Genoise call Godwin o-chan which is difficult to translate. The chan honorific is very familiar and can be taken as insulting depending on circumstances. One place you'll run into it is tou-chan referring to one's father, which is best translated as "Daddy". In this case, with the Genoise using it for Godwin, it is a bit too familiar and is just a touch mocking. The reason they can get away with it is that they're not under his command, and none of them give anything away to him in combat ability or magic, and he knows it. As Gaul's personal guard, the Genoise arguably rank him in terms of status, so they're talking "down", as it were. HorribleSubs made it "old man"; which at least conveys the familiarity and a degree of rudeness. FBI dodged the whole issue and just used "Godwin" instead.

Ep 7, when Godwin announces the duel, he uses Kisamara to refer to his soldiers. FBI makes that "Soldiers". Horriblesubs didn't translate it. So? Kisamara is the plural of kisama which is one of the word that means "you". It's also extremely rude and hostile; often it's fighting words. It's also thug-speak; it's something you'd hear more often from someone using ore than from boku. Most of the characters in DBZ use it to each other, for instance. It's just about the strongest in the language and it's worse than temee.

Ep 7, when Nanami gets MCSA'ed, and Noir announces it. Horriblesubs says, "Nice fanservice from Prince Leaf to the Galette Knights." FBI says, "Prince Lief, the Galettian Knights are grateful for your performance!" She actually used the word "sabisu", which has always meant "fan service" in this show, so FBI is dodging another one.

Jaune's accent drives me nuts. I think it's Kansai-ben. It's the same dialect as Hayate speaks in Nanoha Strikers. (Which doesn't make any sense since she grew up in the same city as Nanoha and Nanoha speaks with a vanilla Tokyo accent.) As to Jaune, TVTropes says, "Osaka-ben is generally used to indicate a fun loving, impatient, loud, boisterous personality" -- which perfectly describes Jaune.

Ep 9, sorabito. Horriblesub took that one literally, too, thus "sky people". FBI used "sylphs", which is classier.

In case you're interested, the disease is ç—…é­” byouma.

Horriblesubs calls the miniature Farine's "avatars". FBI calls them "sprites", which again I think is better.

Horriblesubs "songstress" -> FBI "diva". Dunno about that one.

Horriblesubs "disciple" -> FBI "apostle".

Posted by: Steven Den Beste in Japanese at 03:12 PM | Comments (3) | Add Comment
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March 20, 2015

Strike the Blood -- "kenjuu"

There's a word kenjuu they use all the time in this series which gets translated as "familiar". Normal vampires have the ability to summon one of these. Kojou will eventually have 12 of them, but at the beginning they exist but don't acknowledge his mastery. It's a plot point in the series that he is gradually gaining control over more and more of them as time goes on. (Actually it's a deus ex machina; every time he gets in a bind he gets a new one and it has exactly the power he needs to get out of it.)

Anyway, FFF translates it as "familiar", which usually means tsukaima.

Kenjuu isn't in the dictionary, so I assume it's two words. I've got it that 獣 juu is "beast", because most of the kenjuu have the form of animals. Kojou's first one is "Regulus Aurum" and it looks like a tiger, for instance. Vatler's all look like snakes, gaining him the nickname hebi tsukai "snake user".

Is it this 権 ken, meaning "authority" or "right (to do something)"? Nothing else looks reasonable.

Also, I could be wrong; it might be 呪 ju meaning "spell" or "curse".

Posted by: Steven Den Beste in Japanese at 09:19 PM | Comments (4) | Add Comment
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January 17, 2015


I've heard two examples recently of how the Japanese think English speakers pronounce Japanese names.

In theory every mora in Japanese except ん is what we English speakers would call a consonant followed by a vowel. However, there are three major exceptions to that: す su, つ tsu, and し shi often drop the vowel sound and get pronounced respectively as s, ts, and sh.

Anyway, in the first episode of season 3 of Dog Days, there's a segment of Nanami and Shinku competing in the Iron Athletics competition in London, and the announcer (I think he's supposed to be English but he sounds Australian to me) pronounces Nanami's surname "takatsuki" as tah-kah-tsoo-kee. The Japanese pronounce it as tah-kats-kee.

The other is in the last episode of Arpeggio of Blue Steel. The US Navy in San Diego transmits a message to Japan informing them that the sub arrived safely. It's addressed to Yokosuka. The Japanese pronounce that yo-ko-ska but the American (and it was an American this time) says yo-ko-soo-ka.

Neither case was played for laughs; there was no feeling of "laughing at the gaijin". But I have a feeling that this kind of error is kind of a brand for English speakers, just like mixing up "L" and "R" is a brand for Japanese trying to speak English.

Posted by: Steven Den Beste in Japanese at 09:45 PM | Comments (15) | Add Comment
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October 01, 2014


In Hyperdimension Neptune, there's a word they keep using to describe Noire that sounds to me like bochi. The subs translate it as "loner" and from context the implication is "someone who has no friends".

It isn't bochi, which means 墓地 "graveyard" (or 点 "dot"). And bouchi, bocchi, and boucchi aren't words, so I'm stumped. What word is it?

Posted by: Steven Den Beste in Japanese at 04:27 PM | Comments (9) | Add Comment
Post contains 60 words, total size 1 kb.

May 28, 2014

Panty Quest

There's a Japanese computer game where the goal is to hunt for panties. Good Heavens! (And they have to be harvested off of girls or they don't count. Double Good Heavens!!)

Posted by: Steven Den Beste in Japanese at 06:31 AM | Comments (11) | Add Comment
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May 26, 2014


In Fairy Tail, when the king of the spirits speaks to certain people, he uses a word or phrase that they translate as "old friend". That's how he speaks to Loke in episode 32, and at the end he calls Lucy that, too.

What he's saying sounds to me like furuki but I can't find a reasonable entry in the dictionary for it that makes sense. What is he saying?

Posted by: Steven Den Beste in Japanese at 05:41 PM | Comments (2) | Add Comment
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May 03, 2014

Anime is educational!

We learn from anime; it isn't just stale entertainment.

I learned a new word from Hyperdimension Neptunia.

御釜 okama

Nihongodict translates it as "male homosexual" or "effeminate man" or "male transvestite". It's too polite to translate it accurately:

The only male character in the show, Anonydeath, is like this. We don't get to see how he looks because he spends the entire show wearing powered armor.

Oddly enough, that word also means "pot" and "volcanic crater".

Posted by: Steven Den Beste in Japanese at 08:30 AM | Comments (7) | Add Comment
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March 22, 2014


Where we'd say "Ready Set GO!" the Japanese say sei no. (two beats, not three.)

I've long wondered just what it is that they're saying. The dictionary wasn't of any use. A couple of days ago it occurred to me that it's one word, not two, and now I think I've found it:

性能 seinou "ability, performance"

I suspect at this point its become an idiom and the literal meaning of it no longer matters, but I'm guessing that's what it was. Anyone know if I'm right?

Posted by: Steven Den Beste in Japanese at 05:49 PM | Comments (6) | Add Comment
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February 03, 2014

Why the fascination with Nobunaga?

There are two series this season featuring Nobunaga, and there have been a lot of others. Why the fascination with this historical personage?

I think it's the same reason kids get fascinated with dinosaurs. (I'll explain later.)

Nobunaga lived in the 16th Century, and was a very successful warlord. In his day he conquered a third of Japan, and probably would have conquered all the rest if he hadn't been murdered by one of his top aides, Mitsuhide.

Afterwards, his top general Hideyoshi completed conquest of Japan, and then Ieyasu successfully revolted and established the Tokugawa Shogunate.

And that's where the dinosaurs come in. Lots of people ask why little kids are fascinated with dinosaurs. I think I know: the world of the dinosaurs was completely, totally different from ours, but it was real. It was an alternate path the earth could have followed. Our time would be vastly different without that damned asteroid!

And I think the fascination with Nobunaga is much the same. What if he hadn't been murdered? What if it had been Nobunaga who completed the conquest of Japan, and established a unified government instead of Ieyasu? How different would it have been?

Posted by: Steven Den Beste in Japanese at 09:06 PM | Comments (7) | Add Comment
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